Monday, November 06, 2017

Education is inherited, and it is entrenching class

Both educational success and economic success are greatly influenced by IQ and IQ is largely inherited -- so the scope for change is not great

Philosopher Richard Reeves has come to a harsh conclusion about inequality in the US. “America has a meritocratic market but an unfair society,” he writes in the book Dream Hoarders, published earlier this year.

In Reeves’s view, the US is now a relatively “fair” society for people 25 and older. While he acknowledges that various forms of workplace discrimination still persist, he argues that the US job market increasingly rewards people for their skills, rather than just their race, gender, or who they know. The adult playing field is not quite level, but it is getting there.

The problem, according to Reeves, who is now a researcher with the Brookings Institution, is what happens earlier in life. Children of rich parents have many more opportunities to build skills than those with poor parents. A labor market that increasingly values skills highlights the inequities of education as a result. In other words, the game is fair, but the process of selecting players is rigged.

Reeves’ book, whose full title is Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, details the many ways that wealthier children are advantaged educationally, and why this inevitably leads to inequality. It starts right from the beginning. Children of parents in the top 20% of income are healthier and thus better able to learn. Their parents speak with them more—approximately three more hours per week. They also spend more on “enrichment experiences” outside of school, like trips, books, and tutors.

Children from the top 20% are more likely to go to a highly rated private school, and if they go to public school, are twice as likely as the average kid to live near one that ranks in the top fifth. They also have better teachers. Reeves points to a study of teachers in Louisiana that shows 38% of teachers in wealthy neighborhood public schools were rated as “highly effective,” compared with just 22% in poorer areas.

Higher education only exacerbates the problem. While almost 60% of 25 year-olds from families in the top 20% in income graduated from college in the late 2000s, that is only true of about 12% of children from the bottom 40%. Children from the top 20% are more than twice as likely to attend a selective college as those from the bottom 40%. At elite institutions (the Ivy League Schools plus University of Chicago, Stanford, MIT, and Duke), more children come from the top 1% than come from the entire bottom 50% (pdf).

Pass it on

Education is inherited, and it is entrenching class. The chart below, based on research by Reeves and the economist Joanna Venator, shows the massive difference in educational attainment status by quintile for children born in the US between 1950 and 1968. Nearly half of kids born to a parent in the top 20% of educational achievement stayed in the top 20% (generally speaking, by earning a college degree). By contrast, less than 10% of kids born to a parent in the bottom 20% of educational status (high-school dropouts) managed to rise to the top quintile in terms of educational attainment. More recent data is unavailable, but limited evidence suggests this inequality is getting worse, not better.

To explain the unfairness of the current US system, Reeves turns to a thought experiment of the philosopher Bernard Williams. Williams describes a society in which becoming a member of the “warrior class” was highly prized. Historically, only members from a group of rich families were allowed to become warriors. A rule change is made to allow any member of the society to gain this status. But because becoming a warrior entails strength, and all the other families are undernourished, all of the warriors continue to come from the same rich families. Ostensibly, the rule change made society more fair. In reality, it didn’t. If you swap warrior for student, Reeves believes this is a good analogy for the US economy.

For the most part, Reeves doesn’t blame wealthy parents for these discrepancies. Naturally, parents want to give their children the best opportunities possible. This impulse should be celebrated.
He also doesn’t think we should move away from a labor market that rewards education. “Markets increase prosperity, reduce poverty, enhance well-being, and bolster individual choice,” writes Reeves.

The only remaining choice then, in Reeves view, is to even the educational playing field for poorer kids. “Rather than trying to rectify inequality post hoc, through heavy regulation of the labor market, our ambition should be to narrow the gaps in the accumulation of human capital in the first two and a half decades of life,” he writes.

What inequality?

One obstacle to getting people on board with such reforms is that Americans don’t actually recognize that there is a problem. A recent study by economists at Harvard University found that, compared with four other rich countries, Americans are unusually deluded in their beliefs about intergenerational mobility.
When surveyed about the probability of a child from the bottom 20% of income reaching the top 20%, British, French, Italian, and Swedish people all underestimated the likelihood of this happening in their country. Americans were the only group to overestimate it—they thought their country had the highest mobility, when it actually had the lowest.


There is encouraging skepticism about college education among many Californians

The burden of college loans can last for many years and good jobs after graduation are far from guaranteed

Is college necessary? It turns out about half of Californians don’t think so, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey.

And the difference of opinions among ethnic groups is even more surprising: While two-thirds of Latinos answer yes, a slight majority of Asian- and African-Americans think so — but only 35 percent of whites agree.

The same disparity holds across different income groups, too: Almost 60 percent of those from households earning less than $40,000 say college is necessary, while only 42 percent from households making at least $80,000 agree.

So what’s behind the numbers? For one, the mounting costs of a college degree and mountains of student debt are big factors behind the growing cynicism, experts say. Another reason: It’s human nature for one group (whites) to underestimate the value of something that comes easier (college access) than it does for others.

But while Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg managed to do just fine without a degree, that’s hardly a recipe for the rest of us. Not everyone has a safety net that makes dropping out of college in the hopes of becoming a tech titan a feasible option, said Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Students of color generally don’t have access to the same wealth and capital as their white peers, she said, and their families view college as a path forward.

White families, on the other hand, are more likely to have sent several generations to college and might not recognize that some of their success is due to higher education.

Lower income families may be “feeling like something about their own training falls short,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California. “Most people earning over $80,000 think there are many ways to succeed. Obviously many do have college degrees, but maybe they feel their own personal qualities or social networks account for that.”


The survey of more than 1,700 California adults between Oct. 8-17 also found significant gaps between native-born Californians and noncitizen residents on the question of whether college is necessary, with 75 percent of noncitizen California residents saying college is crucial to success and just 38 percent of native-born California residents agreeing.

“Higher education has been the key to Asian immigrants achieving the American Dream,” said Frank H. Wu, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law and chair of the Committee of 100, a nonprofit organization of Chinese Americans. “It’s been both incredibly important in the Asian cultures from which they or their parents or grandparents came, and in America, one of the ways to come to the country legally was to go to school or get a job.”

But still, 45 percent of Asian Americans don’t think college is a requirement for success these days.

That number surprised Darryl Cereno, a 17-year-old high school senior at San Jose’s Overfelt High School, who is Asian American. More precisely, the fact only 54 percent of Asian Americans polled said college is necessary was the real surprise.

“Usually Asian Americans, especially here in California, are first- or second-generation and there’s this sort of cultural bias where you want to go to college to have a better life, so I’d expect that number to be way higher,” said Cereno, who is applying to college this year.

Still he’s intimidated about taking on significant debt. “I’m scared of that,” he said.


He’s not alone. Overall, 56 percent of the state’s residents think college affordability is a major problem, the survey found. In other words, a significant number of Californians aren’t sure college is worth the investment.

Those views have implications for whether voters are willing to kick more funding toward the state’s higher education system. While most of the state’s residents don’t think the state gives its public colleges enough money, a third think schools waste a lot of the money they are given.

Regardless of race, Wu said, the survey shows there’s skepticism about the value of going to college.

“We’re at a turning point, a crossroads,” he said, “where people are saying I want education, but I don’t want to pay this price for education.”


UK: Police called as Oxford students jeer anti-abortion speakers

Debate at St John’s College

Police were called to a debate at the University of Oxford when student union activists heckled anti-abortion speakers.

The Oxford Students For Life group had organised the event for Wednesday and invited speakers to discuss proposals to legalise abortion in Ireland.

It said that the debate was disrupted by protesters who insisted on shouting for about 40 minutes, chanting slogans such as “Pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die”.

Police were called after college porters failed to silence the protesters, who were escorted from the room.


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